Father Mills: A Remembrance
“To be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord.”- 2 Corinthians 5:8
I was told through a member of my church, Debby White, that Father Mills would be a great interview. She told me what nice, kind people they are, so I pitched the idea to my editor, who also thought it was a great idea.
I thoroughly enjoyed the two interviews I did with them.
Being a pastor of a church myself, Father Mills encouraged me. His words gave me hope.
I could not help but notice the smell of fresh baked cookies coming out of the kitchen, then I observed the letter carrier walk in, and Margaret said to him “Your cookies are on the table.” Now that is something that you don’t see every day.
Sadly, Father Mills died Tuesday morning at 4:45 am with his faithful wife and his sons by his side.
I was sad to hear the news, as Margaret told me the events leading up to death of this great man of God.
Visiting hours will be at Clinton Funeral Home on Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m., Friday 2 to 4 p.m. and then at 7 p.m. with a presentation by the Cold Spring Fire Company. Saturday’s Service will be at Our Lady of Loretto at 10 a.m.
Here is my story in its entirety from the PCN&R, published May 9, 2012:
In the annals of faith in Cold Spring and Philipstown, Father John Mills, 92, and his wife, Margaret, are certainly beloved leaders of it.
Father Mills served as rector at Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church for 31 years, from 1961-1992
Mills, who hails from Ontario, Canada, met his Margaret through mutual friends, in Wisconsin, where Margret was a high school teacher. They were married shortly thereafter.
Mills was raised a Presbyterian. He recalled, “I give the Presbyterian Church all credit for my upbringing and faith; we went to church morning, noon and night.”
It was in Santa Monica, CA, where Mills attended school, that he was converted to the Episcopalian faith, by an old priest who was devoted to his flock and shared the love of Christ.
It was then that Mills started to become actively involved with the Episcopalian Church, andeven played the organ for a period of time.
“The idea of becoming an Episcopal priest was the farthest thing from my mind.” But soon after he completed his education at U.C.L.A, he was called to the ministry, and to prepare himself and attend seminary.
But Uncle Sam had other plans – his number was up and he was drafted into the U.S. Army, and was assigned to the Seventh Battalion Anti-Aircraft Automatic Weapon Division. He served the country with distinction and honor in Okinawa and in Korea.
Mills said, “Okinawa was a miserable thing, but I survived it without getting shot.”
After his stint in the military, Mills placed a call to the bishop of Los Angeles, and informed him he was ready to heed the call and to re-visit the ministry. Mills then prepared himself and attended seminary for three and a half years, and soon after it was back to Wisconsin, where he was assigned the pastorate of a local church.
It was there, in Wisconsin, that Father Mills and Margaret were able to save and put money aside, and shortly thereafter Mills sat Margret down and said, “Honey, we can either buy a new car or go study at Oxford.”
The choice was clear, so they pulled up stakes and moved to England to study at Oxford.
Many people at the time asked Mills how he could afford such an expense to go overseas, and study at such a distinctive college as Oxford. Mills replied, “Listen, you can do things very inexpensively if you don’t have flamboyant ideas.”
It was in in 1961 they were invited to come to Cold Spring, and shepherd the Church at Saint Mary’s.
Mills literally got a baptism by fire, when on the evening before he was scheduled to arrive in Cold Spring to start his pulpit ministry, tragedy struck as the church was set on fire by local children, causing significant damage to the church’s roof and interior.
Mills said, “It was tragic, but community came together and the people rebuilt it right away. Even the fire company held a big bazaar to raise money, the church was restored within a year.”
He and his wife served the Philipstown area with humility and distinction, and with a passion to help the community and lend spiritual guidance to people. Many residents remarked that they have received strength, hope and comfort through their ministry over the years.
In 1992, Father Mills decided after three decades to retire from pulpit ministry at Saint Mary’s. “We looked around and tried to figure out where we would go from here, but then Margaret said, ‘We don’t have to go anywhere.’”
So the choice to remain in Cold Spring was clear, and they stayed.
The Mills have two sons, Johnny, who earn his doctorate at Georgetown University, and is a lawyer in Washington, D.C.; and Charles, who is a doctor in Massachusetts.
Father Mills has been a dedicated chaplain for the Fire Department for more than 50 years. Father Mills also has received many commendations over the years. For his years of service at Saint Christopher’s Inn at Graymoor, Mills was made an associate of Graymoor, where he conducted services at Saint Christopher’s Inn for more than 30 years.
The Philipstown Masonic Lodge honored Mills with the De Witt Clinton Community Service Award for outstanding voluntary community service by a non-Mason.
In his spare time, Mills, who is fluent in French, likes to read. He is currently reading a book in French, about the late singer Edith Piaf and her devotion to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.
And for my part, it was a truly an honor to visit with the Millses.